WHEELING, W.Va. — A private West Virginia university in financial crisis says it is ending its affiliation with the Jesuit order while maintaining its Roman Catholic identity.
Wheeling Jesuit University said in a statement the move will occur at the end of the academic year.
The statement says the university will undergo a yet-to-be-determined name change and will continue to offer Catholic Mass, while the Jesuit order will continue campus ministry and retreat programs.
““The decision in no way impacts the academic credentials of past, present or future students, or changes its distinctive Roman Catholic identity,” a university statement said.
Father Robert Hussey of the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus says the Jesuits understand a reorganization is necessary and wish the university success in the future.
The university previously announced more than half its academic programs will be cut next year. Wheeling Jesuit President Michael Mihalyo Jr. says financial sustainability and refocusing academic programs that in part reflect student and workforce demands “is the best path forward.”
A statement released by the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus explained its reasons for the move.
“Continued financial challenges at the university recently led the Board of Trustees to declare financial exigency,” it said. “In response to that declaration, university leadership developed a reorganization plan that includes eliminating numerous academic programs, as well as faculty and staff positions.”
“With nearly all Jesuit positions eliminated, and without sufficient lay Ignatian leadership and programming to support the Jesuit identity of the university, the Jesuit affiliation of the university will not be able to continue,” the statement said.
“While an end to Jesuit sponsorship is difficult for all, refocusing our academic program on those areas that reflect the intersection of the faculty’s expertise, student and workforce demand, and financial sustainability is the best path forward for the university and our students,” said university President Michael P. Mihalyo Jr.
“We are grateful that we will be able to maintain a Jesuit presence and influence and continue our rich Catholic tradition,” he said.
Crux staff also contributed to this report.